Thursday, July 12th, 2007
I have to wonder if, when preparing his first solo album Sirens Of The Ditch, out this past Tuesday, if Jason Isbell had any inkling that he was going to be leaving the Drive-By Truckers? And if not, did that affect the selection criteria for the material? Did he set some songs aside for the next Truckers record? Would this have been a different record otherwise?
These are all strictly rhetorical questions that hinge largely on whether or not Isbell jumped from the truck or was pushed and that’s not something that’s likely to be addressed by either camp any time soon. The fact is, Isbell would sound like Isbell no matter what band he was in and Sirens Of The Ditch sounds like Isbell. Sirens is a mix of searing rockers and plaintive ballads which showcase his fearsome guitar chops and whiskey-soaked vocals respectively, as well as serving as a reminder that he was responsible for some of the poppiest stuff the Truckers ever put out. And while his last outfit is a tough act to follow, his players on this record – the 400 Unit – definitely don’t let Isbell or the material down. Sirens more than proves that for Isbell, there’s plenty of life after the Truckers. We’ll have to see if there’s life for the Truckers after Isbell… of course the answer to this is “yes”, as there was plenty of life in the band before Isbell. I guess the real question is as to the quality of that life.
Isbell is on the road in support of the record and will be at the El Mocambo on July 24. He was in town back in April and turned in a fine set of new and old material opening for Son Volt – I would expect this tour is more of the same. Only more. Isbell talked to The AV Club, Style Weekly, The Day, The Huntsville Times and Creative Loafing about his new record and his old band. And Philadelphia City Paper talks to his old band.
The National have announced a Fall tour that brings them back to Toronto for a show at the Phoenix on October 8. That’s both Thanksgiving and the day I roll back into town after Pop Montreal, which they are almost certainly closing out with their show the night before at Le National. The National at Le National. Oprah, Uma, Uma, Oprah.
Will Sheff of Okkervil River talks to Billboard about crafting The Stage Names, out August 7. Jagjaguwar is offering folks who pre-order either the regular or double-disc deluxe version of the record through them the opportunity to download the album (almost) immediately. Folks like me who pre-ordered through Insound get to pay a couple dollars more and receive nothing in advance. Boo. They’re in town September 21 at Lee’s Palace and then down the QEW in Hamilton at the Pepper Jack Cafe on September 22.
Some MP3s and details from the forthcoming Mendoza Line release have surfaced on the band’s website. Out August 21, 30 Year Low comprises new recordings and the final ones with vocalist Shannon McArdle while companion disc The Final Remarks Of The Legendary Malcontent clears out the vaults of live tracks, rehearsals and covers. The future of the band got discussed quite thoroughly on this very site a few months ago – sift through the birthday greetings in the comments for news on the current state of the band and even a message from McArdle herself.
Nellie McKay will release her third album, Obligatory Villagers, this September. Since she’s releasing it on her own label, there’s unlikely to be the same major label drama that plagued and delayed Pretty Little Head for almost a year.